Located in the heart of Hanoi, Sword Lake is picturesque. Its ancient Tortoise tower, The Huc bridge and Ngoc Son temple made the lake the pride of Hanoians and probably the first image that the name “Hanoi” evokes in Hanoians living far from home.
History of Sword Lake
The lake has been called by several names including Luc Thuy, Ta Vong, Huu Vong and Thuy Quan. The current name “Hoan Kiem” which translates as “Lake of the Returned Sword” dates back to the 15th century. The lake is associated with a legend in which King Le Thai Tho returns a sword to a sacred turtle after defeating Ming dynasty invaders. The lake and its surroundings are one of the main attractions of Hanoi. The area surrounding the lake has lush greenery and two or three-storey buildings dating from the French colonial era. Mr. Bui Anh Tuan has lived in Hanoi for nearly 60 years: “Hanoi has changed a lot since 1975, especially the streets around Hoan Kiem lake. The architecture around the lake has also changed. In Dinh Tien Hoang street there were once trams and the lifestyle of the Hanoians at the time was very simple. Today, the street is much busier and our way of life has changed. We used to listen to the radio in the street through loudspeakers installed in the trees. That no longer exists”.
Hightlights of Sword Lake
Hoan Kiem lake is surrounded by many historical and cultural structures: the old town with Hang Ngang, Hang Dao, Cau Go, Luong Van Can streets, the Western corner of French architecture with the Great Cathedral, Trang Thi, Hang Bai and Dinh Tien Hong street. But the iconic site is Ngoc Son Temple, the Pen Tower, Hoa Phong Tower and The Huc bridge. Ngoc Son temple occupies the largest island in the lake. Although surrounded by busy streets, Hoan Kiem Lake remains calm and romantic. This is why it is one of the nicest walking areas in Hanoi. Do Duy Quang lives in Hang Gai street, which is near the lake: “I was born and grew up near Hoan Kiem Lake. I have lived here for 30 years and I have many memories. I still remember when I was little I often walked around the lake with my grandparents and my parents. I ate Thuy Ta ice cream, visited Ngoc Son temple and played with a kite on the The Huc bridge. Because I am very attached to Hoan Kiem Lake, I really miss it when I am away from Hanoi. I have traveled a lot but have found that only a few places are as green as the area around Hoan Kiem lake”.
On special occasions like National Day or the Lunar New Year, the lake is a meeting place. People flock there to celebrate together. Bui Anh Tuan again: “Hoan Kiem lake has become a major cultural center of the capital city. It is the place that hoststhe most events during the year including cultural, arts, and sports events and visits by politicians. On those occasions, the site is often very elaborately decorated. Hanoians who live nearby are very proud because the lake is growing in fame inside and outside Vietnam”.
Diego is a tourist from Spain: “I love this scenic lake. It is beautiful because of its lush greenery. Around the lake are several beautiful architectural sites. Back in my home country, I will mention the lake to my friends”.